Humor

Grieving

“No one ever told me that grief felt so much like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness……atbother times it feels like being mildly drunk or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in.”

—- C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

Nailed it!!

To try and deny your grief stricken world is anything…ANYTHING other than how  Mr. Lewis  so brilliantly described it is such an injustice.   Why deny yourself the very normal, natural, very human process of grieving?

I’m smack dab in the beginning of my own emotional Slip-n- 0Slide, but rather than delving  into the reasons why, let’s get into the way I learned to grieve and to do that properly, I must start at the start.  Indulge me, please.

In my family, weakness of any kind was frowned upon.   Crying?   It wasn’t emoting, it was viewed as nothing more than leakage from the ocular sockets and God forbid eyes should ever leak due to heartaches and disappointments common within certain stages of development.

Examples :

  1.  Never ask for help.
  2.  Never find yourself in need of propping oneself on anything or anyone.
  3. “Toddle at your own peril, you unruly two year old!!”
  4.  “You shove that compound fracture back in place, slap some good ol’ Monkey  Blood on it and quit whining.  Now, get back in the chain gang!!”

It was like trying to glide down a 100 flights of stairs with a book on your head at a steady clip while not using the railing.      Although, that’s why railings exist; to steady; to aid in balance.

Sometimes, a lack of balance can be used as control.    It’s at the heart of gaslighting.   Bad boyfriends perfected it, but parents invented it.

In my case, it was that and a severe case of  ‘do as I say, not as I do’.     My paters ascended and descended life with ease, as if  safely belted in one of those chair lift contraptions.  They were given so many things.   But I don’t bemoan this fact..   Maybe they knew  something we didnt; maybe that’s why they were so hard on us?   I’m not sure.    Whatever the reasoning, it sure made sticking around after high school NOT an option.

Bu here’s the reality:  my parents had me for 18 years.   That’s on them; but from about 18 and a half on, that was and continues to be my cause and effect.

But I’ll admit at the time, I was pretty pissed off at reaching semi-adulthood.   It felt like the rudest abandonment of all.    I didn’t realize that trying to make make sense out of life without a map of any kind, was such a tremendous life lesson, but tell THAT to a wide-eyed 18-year-old who just mistakenly polished her shoes with the foulest smelling  Shinola.   Yes, there were many other kids in the same state of confusion, but one really only gets that concept when one has made the transition from child to adult child.    Until then, there’s little comfort in the ‘you’re not alone’ speech.

On a slightly different note, an old college chum and I had an interesting email exchange today.   We discussed manifesting hopes and dreams and how so easily  that can go awry, but how and why things get so muddled was the interesting part.     We discussed how both of us had  gotten what we wanted in life, but marveled how it looked nothing like we envisioned it all those decades ago.

His dream was to be surrounded by books and spend languid days reading and editing them  in a place that was warm and dry.     He got that opportunity…he still has that opportunity, but it’s hardly where he thought it would be.   Perhaps,  he secretly saw in his mind’s eye, that he’d be doing it all as a big deal  in a fancy office in a major publishing house, delightfully quashing the dreams of erstwhile authors with a pen stroke.    You see, we didn’t have personal computers in 1979.

I always saw him living out his dream in a dark paneled  library that had the distinctive smells of leather book with yellowing pages.   I also saw him with a pipe,   wearing a satin trimmed smoking jacket while being served sherry from an attentive white-gloved  butler named Hobbs .

IMG_2112

But no…….that that would be reserved for the wealthy and  fortunate few, such as a man named Bruce, who called stately Wayne Manor his home.   Gee, some kids orphaned by a murderer on the streets of Gotham have ALL the luck!!!

I fancied myself as a network news anchor,   I got to Houston and stayed there, but at one time, I really I thought I wanted more.  I actually remember the day when I pulled a Maris Crane and sat on the edge of my bed in my slip and sighed, realizing it was simply not to be.   I guess I didn’t want to be a network news anchor badly enough.    Perhsps, I exemplified my own Peter Principle.

And I’ll end this rambling nonsense with a completely different email conversation my friend and I had:  never marginalize a death.      In fact, when in the presence of someone grieving, please completely remove the word “just” from your lexicon, as in it was “just” a parakeet, it was “just” a dog.   It was “just”  a beloved heirloom three generations old; it was “just ” a job, “just” a house you raised your family in….he was  “just” a boyfriend.

Would you say to a grieving father, “He was just a son” as if a new one could  be ordered via Amazon?    I don’t deny losing a child is agony with a face.  I’ve witnessed this kind of grief in my own family and it was awful.   It was such a distortion of life, but loss of all kinds has one common theme:  a deep, relentless  pain.

Schlepp around in the shoes of heartache before choosing to A)   make a comment and    B)  choosing to ignore the bereaved.  No one wants to be around a sad person, I get it,  I’ve  abandoned sad people too.   I’ve literally run from the awkwardness, but these days, color me educated.   Today, I’d never leave a grieving person completely alone, even if they demanded that I stay away.     I’d honor their wishes, at least on the surface but I would still close keep tabs on them and I’d let them know it.    They need to know they matter because they certainly feel like nothing does,   After enduring traumatic losses of any kind, they need to know this first and foremost.    They’ll put up a fuss, even start fights, but that’s the grief talking.    If you don’t know what to say to them, that’s ok because trust me, they absolutely don’t know what to say to you, that isn’t saturates in sadness, but try to hear what they’re saying.  Listen carefully to their silences.

Becsuse the saddest, most impossible  part of all of this is that sometimes, cries for help make no sound at all.

Homeland, In Summation

Another season has bitten the quivering bottom lip.  We’re now condemned to spend 12 months worth of Sunday evenings without laying eyes on the ugliest cryer in the history of images captured on a Canon 5D camera.    Sorry Clare Danes, but this CANNOT be news to you!

But she cried in tonight’s season finale and with good reason.    Quinn is dead….or is he???    Well, for all intents and purposes,  let’s say he was shot to death while trying to save Carry and President Elect Keane in a completely implausible scene.     He drove the special “armored” car out of the garage of the hotel  that served as her transition team’s HQ.

But let’s not get too ahead of ourselves.

If you remember from last week, Carrie figured out a squad of mercenary Delta Force members were sent to the hotel under the guise of protecting Keane but really, all they wanted was to whack Quinn.    The trained assassin was set up in a fake website, entitled Toxic Soldier.    The site contains posts stating he wants to 86 Keane, which sets up everything in motion for killing Quinn.   He and Carrie rush to the hotel.   He stays in the crowd to sniff out some of his former Delta Force brethren, while Carrie heads inside.

Just as she’s trying to explain this “delta farce’ to Saul, Keane and her staff, they’re told there’s a credible bomb threat in a lower floor, so they evacuate, but Dar calls Carrie as several decoy cars exit the building, he tells her  that Keane’s life is in danger.

“”No shit!, screams a very angry Carrie pissed as hell at Dar  who spent the entire season using daughter Frannie and Family Services  to control her.

Dar tells her to think about it : a bomb makes no sense.  The building is swept constantly by Secret Service.   The goal, he says, is to get Keane’s vehicle out on the street., making her a sitting duck.    Carrie concludes that Dar is a prick, but a prick who in this case, is telling the truth, so she  throws herself in front of  Keane’s car just as the two decoy cars which just left the parking garage, blow up.

Carrie, Keane and one Secret Service agent run amuck through a now abandoned hotel running from two DF guys.    Carrie and Keane separate from the agent who ends up on the wrong side of a government issued M4 carbine.   They hide in an elevator and of course, Quinn finds them and guides them down to the President Elect’s SUV in the garage.  Quinn tells Carrie to cover Keane, he takes the wheel and exits the parking garage.   He stops the vehicle briefly—to the left are two bombed out, burning cars; to the right, a street lined with DF soldiers, with guns aimed at him and closing in.  He makes a career decision, and goes for it, stepping on the gas, heading right into the incoming gunfire and gets shot up all to hell.    He dies behind the wheel  a few blocks away, surrounded  by bystanders documenting the whole thing with their smart phones.  So, irony of ironies, the man who clsimed  he could kill so readily because he had no heart, died after being shot in the heart.

Fade to black and it’s six weeks later.

Keane is president, having taken the oath of office behind closed doors, under massive security.     This doesn’t sit well with Brett O’Keefe, the Alex Jones type and it’s freaking out a lot of top brass in the CIA, NSA, FBI….hell, maybe even NASA, ASCAP, SAG, and every acronym known to man.   Keep in mind the new president  has no idea how deep the Get Keane conspiracy goes.   So, at her request, Carrie meets with representatives from several security organizations, partly to feel them out for culpability and partly to assure them that the rumors of a mass round up by Keanian Brown shirts ain’t gonna happen.

But It already has happened to Dar.   Keane said she’d put his ass in jail.

Campaign promise #1:  √

During a prison visit with Saul, Dar says what he did–his attempt to discredit Keane  was unforgivable, but not wrong.    He insists something isn’t right with the new president, she’s unfit for office,  she’s odd and decidedly un-American.   Saul shows no reaction.

In the meantime,  Carrie is in the Oval Office, and Keane offers her a Senior Advisory position.   She’s flattered and tentatively accepts, insisting she must clear it with her daughter.      Then, something odd happens:  Keane hands Carrie a file on the Baltic States, but insists she reads the top secret report immefistely the Oval Office.  Why is it strange, you ask?    Well, for starters, Carrie hadn’t officially accepted the job yet and there was a creepy vibe about Keane.   At the time, I couldn’t put my finger on it.

Turns out, she used Carrie for reasons that aren’t that clear to me.  Everyone who met with Carrie earlier is now being “detained”with handcuffs, a perp walk and camera crews taping the whole thing.     This includes Saul.   Yes Saul!!!     Carrie is livid and heads to the Oval Office and demands to see Keane, but she’s not only forbidden to see the President, she’s  forcibly removed from the West Wing.  She’s screaming at Keane through a closed door.   And sitting at her desk motionless….and emotionless is Keane, ignoring Carrie’s screams, even as the Dolby effect kicks in as  Ms Mania is dragged down the hall.      On a Keane’s face  is that same creepy expression.    Maybe Dar is correct.    As we say in Texas, ‘the girl ain’t right’.

Is Peter Quinn dead?    I doubt it.    They made a big deal about not making a big deal about his death.  In the epilogue, he was only mentioned once resgarding his memorial service and that means no coffin, no body and probably no death.   We only saw him dump over, blood dripping from his lips but Mein Gott, how many times have we seen that happen to this impervious beast of a man?   And when Keane asked if he was dead, Carrie said yes, but in a rather squirrelly way,   I’d bet he’s in hiding since he was the target of a hit.   I’ll bet a bottle of my favorite intoxicant, he’ll be back for season 7 and certainly season 8 when every cast member gets offed.   How else can Homeland end?

Great ending to season 6. The show was compelling and intriguing, didn’t want it to end…BUT…was it just me or did the lines often blur between who was the focus of the conspiracy;  was it Keane, Quinn or both?    Dar started the Keane campaign, but he’s always made it clear he cared deeply for Quinn.    So, how did Quinn get mixed up in this and who did the mixing?   And why?  Who escalated it?    Who made it go “deep state”?   What did  I miss?

Guess, I’ll have wait one agonizing Homelandless year to find out the answers to those questions and so many others.

And one final note:    When Carrie is back in New York apartment waiting for a social worker home visit, a very drunk Max (her former CIA colleague and cyber wunderkind), shows up on her front door.   He says something garbled about how horrible it is ‘what they’re doing’ but she dismisses him to the downstairs bedroom where Quinn stayed.    She tells him to be quiet, she wants the home inspection to go well, because she really, really, really wants her daughter to come home.    The inspection goes great, the social worker leaves, confident that a new court date can be arranged.

Carrie then heads downstairs to deal with Max.   He’s passed out on the bed, but she looks around the room, Quinn’s clothes are on the floor where he left them months earlier.    Tidy up much, Carrie??    And does that mean Quinn never changed clothes???   Uh….eeeew!

In the middle of stuffing all his belongings in a garbage bag, she hears an audible creak in the floor above her.  She notices it, but does nothing about it.     Really????    An ex-CIA spy who’s just been through hell and back, trained to suspect everyone and trust no one hears someone in her apartment and does nothing???

And lastly, Carrie finds a book in drawer among Quinn’s effects.  In it, is an envelope filled with photos of  Carrie and Frannie and of Quinn’s child.   She starts crying.     Some might think it’s because she misses Quinn or that she realized via the photos that he really cared for her, for  Frannie, for his son.  He was a hard man unlike any other but like most others, had/has the capacity for love.  I think Carrie cried because it touched her and made her realize just how much she misses her own daughter.  And perhsps she misses normalcy…whatever that means to her.

Quinn?   Carrie knows he’s okay, somewhere safe, recuperating from bullet wounds and a stroke and that means learning to talk again and walk again….this go round, unlike Ratso Rizzo (that reference is for classic movie buffs and/or those of a certain age).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Homeland

HOMELAND (Season 4)

I’m not going to get into the specifics of the series.  If you’re a fan of the show, you already know who the major players are and that means your also well aware of and the non-formulaic formula used each season.    But so far in year number six (the series finale is this Sunday night), art is imitating life in oddly specific ways.

For starters, Alex Gansa wears a ridiculous number of Homeland hats.   He’s a screenwriter, producer, creator, executive producer, showrunner  and probably chief brownie baker for craft services on the set of the award-winning Showtime series.   Politically and culturally speaking, he proudly states he’s left of center.    That’s obvious this season in Carrie’s paradigm shift.

Last year, and the year before that and the year before that, she was a fiercely determined, bi-polar CIA hunter of radical Islamic terrorists.  This season,  she’s a retired spy with a sympathetic side.  A year ago she hunted them down.  Couriers ro cell head honchos were fair game… she didn’t care.    She now represents jihadis (real or perceived) against discrimination.   Being a Muslim is being a member of a religion, not an indictment.

I don’t know if Mr. Gansa did this on purpose or not,  but from my point of view, this season has analogous undertones for…..wait for it….wait for it….the TRUMP administrstion and not necessarily in a completely negative vein.    This year has been rife with mentions of Alternate news sites, fake news, fabricated news reports,  security leaks, fraternizing with Russians, professional protestors, revisionist historians run amuck.   We’ve even heard the words  “deplorables,” and “Not My President,” on a TV show with dialog ripped from today’s headlines.  This helps make all of this real world partisan nonsense shameful, embarrassing and painful to watch.

I’ve known nuns who inflicted less guilt.

This season features  alt. news mouthpiece, Brett O’Keefe  (Jake Webber), an Alex Jones show host type whose dislike for Madam President Elect Keane (Elizabeth Marvel) is as obvious as the perpetual Diet Coke can he clutches in his right hand.   Chalk one up for product placement.

Keane’s son was killed in Iraq while trying to rescue an injured warrior during  a firefight.   The event was captured on another soldier’s body cam and  O’Keefe and his incredibly well-funded misinformation machine creatively edited the video to make it appear as though Soldier Keane was running away from battle.   This  infuriates his mom who vehemently kept the subject of her son off topic during her campaign.   She didn’t want to politicize his death.    So, O’Keefe does that for her after her election.  They end up going head to head on his TV talk show, both unflinching in their stances on the veracity of the video.

Mrs. Keane insists the video is incomplete, there’s more to the story.   Even so, the story remains the same: her son died a decorated war hero.

O’Keefe says nope, that’s the not the case.  The video is correct and he has eyewitness accounts from solders involved in that same gun battle who know the facts and they say Late Almost First Son died a coward, so there!!!

This on air confrontation stirs up a hornets nest of protestors at her transition headquarters which just so happens to be a lavish hotel in the heart of New York.  As her motorcade heads back to HQ, one hate-filled protestor breaks through the security barrier and her car clips him.     When this happens, her expression is truly one of shock and awe and she asks without uttering a word, “What the hell have I gotten myself into???”

We then learn that a specific security detail is being sent to help the President-Elect’s team.  They are in fact,  a hit squad.   Carrie and Quinn figured it out thanks to code on a poorly erased dry board.

But we’ll have to wait for Sunday night’s season finale to find out if Carrie can once again (as she has during the previous five seasons) be completely ubiquitous and Teflon coated and somehow save the CIA, the President- Elect and the world, from any and all evil.

Speaking of evil,  Dar Adal (F. Murray Abraham) has never smiled or shown any emotion once since his first appearance on Showtime and in season six, he lets out all the stops in terms of his evil induced facial paralysis.   He’s funding O’Keefe’s alt. news/misinformation effort with CIA slush money,.  That’s a HUGE  no-no because national security agencies are prohibited from influencing U.S. public opinion.

Hhhhhmmmmm…..sound familiar?

We also learn that Dar is a big old queen and recruited trained assassin, Peter Quinn (Rupert Friend) out of High School because of his potential and no doubt, because Quinn is on the hot side.

IMG_2085

Like O’Keefe, Dar also dislikes President- elect Keane.  Before winning the election, she was a Junior Senator from New York (D) with no foreign policy or national security experience.     That doesn’t sit well in certain sections of government, in TV or in real life apparently.   In an earlier episode, as her team is just starting its presidential transition, Keane meets with Dar and Saul (Mandy Patinkin) about the CIA, an organization for which she  has little esteem.  She asks about the ongoing war in Iraq and Afghanistan.   She also inquires about specific Agency programs, including  drone attacks and clandestine military operations.    Keep in mind, Carrie now a civilian with a former CIA station chief title, has been her extra secret hush-hush ghost advisor throughout her campaign and transition.    Carrie would know, she ordered most of the drone strikes and covert military attacks in question.

At this point, Saul and Dar have no idea Carrie is anywhere in the Keane picture.  So, they’re surprised the inexperienced next President would even know to ask these questions.    They hedge their answers.

‘She then asks,  “If the war isn’t winnable, what are we doing there?’

Have scarier words ever been uttered into the ears of CIA bigwigs??     After the meeting,  Dar is convinced Keane wants to demilitarize the CIA.     That’s when he goes into “get Keane” mode.    He goes into “eliminate Keane” mode after she threatens to throw him in jail for all his nefarious behavior.   It’s safe to assume he ordered the hit squad that’s coming to Keane under the guise of extra security.

DETAILS WORTH NOTING:

* Saul broke into Carrie’s apartment a few episodes earlier.    He was on the run and about to go into hiding.   He searches the entire apartment for no apparent reason sinxe  it’s obvious Carrie isn’t there.   He finds a room that’s locked.   He breaks in and it’s a small space filled with proof that Carrie is off her meds.   There are photos with several cross crossing connective lines and scribbled-on Post It notes stuck all over the place.   The look on Saul’s face says everything.     Carrie is crazy again, yay!!!….but this scene is short and hasn’t been referred to since.   In fact, scenes including the infamous Carrie bottom lip quiver have been few and far between this season.

IMG_2091

* Quinn is the new Rasputin.   Nothing kills this cat.   After being shot, beaten, kidnapped an forced to be the scapegoat victim of chemical warfare, concussions, a stroke and being within three feet of Carrie most of  the past six seasons, it’s ridiculous that he’s still alive.

IMG_2090

* Keane is an interesting character.   She’s ballsy, which she’d have to be as the nation’s first female president.    She’s also smart and to the point and as president’s go, quite an iconoclast, nit unlike Trump.    That said, show creator Alex Gansa seems to have derived Keane from a big political salad; a little bit of both Clintons and Trump.   If Obama is in the mix,  I can’t see it.

* O’Keefe  (the Alex Jones type) and Dar are working together, but Dar accidentally sees a website on one of a zillion laptops in O’Keefe’s office.   It included a photo of Peter Quinn.   O’Keefe slams the laptop shut and tells Dar it’s just a project he’s working on,   He offers nothing more and Dar doesn’t press the issue.  Dar uses or rather, deftly forces a CIA colleague and cyber whiz kid to delve into the website which is supposedly Quinn’s blog, but everyone knows he has no use for email or texts, much less a blog.   Yet, his photo is proudly displayed and blog it’s filled with anti-President- Elect Keane stories and conspiracy theories..  Real lunatic fringe stuff.      There’s  even a threat made against Keane’s life and as we saw in last Sunday’s previews for the season finale this coming Sunday, there’s a shoot to kill order for Quinn as a result of a threat he never made.     But why?   What does killing Quinn get O’Keefe?   What he stand to gain by going against Dar?    O’Keefe  must know Quinn has a special place in Dar’s  heart, plus Dar is  funding this massive cottage industry of misinformation under one very large roof.    Isn’t that biting the hand that feeds?

* Lastly, Gansa and company seem to have turned Homeland’s attention away from Muslim extremism and more towards our own internal corruption.    Each week has been like an imposed object lesson:  as if to say, “See? We’re no better than those we call the enemy.”

The show has  a seventh season planned, but some major changes will have to happen as far as I’m concerned.   I wouldn’t be surprised if Dar and Quinn are either killed or jailed (depending  on the terms of the actors’ contracts) while Carrie re-enters the Agency, more manic than ever.    I know I want to hear more free form jazz, I want to witness antipsychotic meds washed down with Chardonnay and I want her to get into more frenetic promiscuity.     Her ginger headed by product of her affair with Brodie?    That child character isn’t a factor at this point.   She’s just a means used to control Carrie.   Motherhood will never be easy for Carrie, nor is it that intriguing.    Little Frannie is cute and all, but unless she’s precocious enough to fly a plane, use a spy camera pen and order a pizza in Farsi, she can’t stay on as a character.   I’m afraid she’ll have to go the way of Chuck, the eldest brother on Happy Days or Mike, the oldest boy on My Three Sons.   Poof!!!     Gone from one season to the next.   No questions asked.

Which begs the question–who’ll be the enemy next season?     Every show ever produced for TV has established conflict.  In this case,  it’s man vs. man with a subtext of good vs. evil.  If Gansa and company want to exclude all things Middle Eastern from the equation, I’ll bet Russia will enter the picture as the new (old) foe.    Hating within, hating ourselves is safe,  but with the current political climate that exists, its just as factional.   If we all gang up on Russia, that’s okay.    Years ago, the late great radio legend, Mark Stevens once noted on air that since the Korean War, Americans only wage war on country’s with citizens who have dark skin.    He said it in jest, but if you think about it…..

If Russia becomes the new focus of hate, either on Homeland or from within The Beltway,  we need to remember who we’re dealing with.    Russia is bigger, wealthier and so much more organized than any other threat, save for Great Britain circa 1775.

Since the end of the Cold War, we’ve gotten used to seeing news clips of adversaries throwing rocks and bottles at various defenders of Democracy.    Russians might do the same, but the rocks and bottles they throw have nukes attached.

Now MY bottom lip is quivering.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

London 3/23/17

It’s a city I’ve been fascinated with since the film, Mary Poppins.   I desperately wanted to go there, to see the place where a soot covered Rob Petrie cavorted on rooftops with a magical, singing nanny  and her flying umbrella.

I was lucky.  I got the chance to vacation there with family exactly three years ago.  We spent a week in London with jaunts to Bath and Salisbury.    It never rained once, we met the kindest people and everyday was a sublime history lesson.

It was such a wonderful experience, which is why  it’s so eerie to realize that we walked on the Westminster Bridge.  We road on a boat on The Thames that embarked from a pier beneath that bridge. We stood in the shadow of Big Ben, the exact same spot that saw so much carnage went down on what had started out for Londoners  as a typical Wednesday afternoon in March.

We’re still in such denial about our barbarism these days.    VVideo taped beheadings throwing homosexuals off tall buildings , placing infidels in small cages with hungry tigers barely make headlines.    Reports of raping  women, then stoning them to death for being the victim barely lasts  one news cycle.    Today’s media  is nothing more than an extension of  some weird polite society in which nothing unpleasant is ever discussed.   It tiptoes around the “T” word.   Of course it was terrorism. And the attacker’s actions should be considered as such, even if he’d been nothing than a  fifth  generation resident of Trenton, NJ and a so-so Presbyterian.

We used to use nouns and verbs in reporting news.  These days?   Screw “alternate media”, we’re well beyond that.  We’re now into “alternate verbiage”.    We’re so worried about offending the offender.   Tell a soldier who fought in Korea or Vietnam that those were mere conflicts.     Some might tell you they’d never go back to Incheon or that tiny village near the Mekong, but in many ways, parts of them never left.  Everyone leaves a psychic footprint, in good times and bad, but in the midst of anything extremely traumatic, it becomes permantently imbedded in the bedrock.

Connections to places are strange things.

In 2000, I was a member of a popular morning radio show.   We spent a week in New York covering the Grammies.     I can remember heading back to the hotel after a show and the cab we shared drove close to the World Trade Center.     We’d all been to New York before, so none of us were tourists at that point, yet as we passed, my fellow passengers  and I admitted we’d never seen the world from a fixed position 110 stories high.    We agreed that a visit would have to be on each of our “to do” lists, but since we had one full day left in New York, we’d have to do it next time.    Sixteen months later, the Twin Towers  were reduced to a twisted, smoldering heap.

On the afternoon of September 11, 2001, I felt like I do right now.  I’m saddened by every tragic terrrorist attack, but it becomes even more personal when you live or work in a place that was bludgeoned by hate.    Or perhaps you played there;  attended a concert at a theater where the audience members were nothing more than human target practice.    What if a few weeks you cheered on your team during a soccer match at a stadium targeted for mass tragedy..     Perhaps you vacationed a few miles from the scene, spent an hour in an airport that was bombed; maybe you knew  someone who knew someone who was on a bus or train that was blown to bits.

I don’t understand what motivates us to use hate to justify anything.    Why does hate seem more powerful?

I don’t know the answer, but perhaps I can offer how it happens,.   According to Cherokee legend, a tribal elder was sitting with his grandson by the fire one night.   He regaled the boy with stories of their people, of wars with enemies,  won and lost.    He then tried to explain to the biggest battle of all–an ancient one that’s fought within every human.   The old man described it as a constant fight between two wolves, equal in size and passion but the exact opposite in what they represented.      One is Evil and he embodies anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority and ego.

The other wolf represents Good.   He encompassed joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.   The child contemplated the story briefly, then asked , “Which wolf wins?”

The grandfather replied simply, “The one you feed.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Letter is “T”

Mrs. G.  was my first grade teacher.    Now, keep in mind I’m from a small town in South Central Texas and this little hamlet wasn’t very enterprising.  In fact, I think back on it now and I believe progress scared the hell out of the City Fathers (this was 1965, there were no City Mothers yet).  Construction of a Dairy Queen in late 1972 made some quake in their boots.

Even so, many who graduated from High School especially after World War II went to college  and then came back for some reason.   Family perhaps; it was easy and  familiar.    Others  left and never returned.  Still,  a few went home the night they graduated from High School  and just stayed there.

My father and mother dated in High School.   Both went to college and both came back home.   They got married and spawned three girls.    I’m the youngest.  Many of my parents’ siblings also came back home, settled down and had kids, so it wasn’t a big deal that my first grade teacher and a few subsequent teachers in later grades, also taught my older sisters, most of my cousins, my parents, every aunt and uncle.  They were also either friends or members of the same clubs and organizations as both of my grandmothers.

So misbehaving  in class: not an option.   Comparisons to older family members:  a constant occurrence.

I was hardly unique.  Lots of kids I knew were second generation students, especially in Mrs. G’s.  class.    She taught everyone in my family.   She was also principal of the school which housed first and second grades.   She was kid savvy, large and imposing.   She could be stern when need be, but basically, she was good teacher and above all, she was extremely patient.   One would  have to be in order to teach students with varying degrees of aptitudes..  And back then, kids were piled into three separate first grade classrooms.    I’m not sure of the methods used in terms placement, but I remember my first grade class being a mixed bag of quite gifted kids and others who (in the simplest terms) weren’t.

For privacy’s sake, I’ll call him Carl.

He came from a large family from “the wrong side of the tracks” as they say.    He sat across the aisle from me in  Mrs. G’s class.   He was very tall, lanky and shy.   He kept to himself, in class and during recess.   He’d talk infrequently.   Occasionslly, he’d initiate a conversation.   At other times, you might attempt to talk to him, but he’d ignore you and look straight ahead.   When he and I did speak, which was rare,  conversations were  always brief and about mundane things, such as the the Friday night football game or the raging thunderstorm that blew through  the night before.    Yes, Carl was different,  but he remains a very vivid first grade memory for two reasons.

Reason #1:  I remember looking at him;  his long legs,  the well worn, hand me down   “highwater” pants he wore.  I stared at his profile and saw  longish, blond whiskers growing above his upper lip.    At the time, I didn’t quite understand what that meant since none of the other boys in the entire  school  were as hairy or as tall.   Later on, I realized  he must have been held back several grades.   It was either that or Ma Nature cruelly bestowed puberty upon him at the tender age of six, which college biology later taught me, was highly unlikely.

Reason # 2:  One day in May, when the end of first grade loomed near, Mrs. G decided to test us on spelling and our familiarity with the alphabet.   She’d hold up photos of simple objects and we would either be called upon or we’d raise our hand s to tell her what the object in the drawing was and then we’d spell it out now for her.    These were easily identifiable things, nothing above our reading  level.

For example, she’d hold up a picture of a boat and Sheila would raise her hand and tell Mrs. G that the item began  with a “B.”    It was boat and spelled  B-O-A-T.      Gold star for Sheila.     Then, she’d hold up a pic of a car and Timmy would get a chance to demonstrate his spelling prowess.

Mrs. G got all the way down to “S” without a hitch.     Then came the next letter in the alphabet.     She held up a photo of a common vegetable, a terrific side dish, often baked or mashed, great with fried chicken or diced and fried, making it the perfect accompaniment for a hamburger.

Carl uncharscteristicslly raised his hand and announced to Mrs. G and the entire class that the object in the drawing began with the letter “T”.     Mrs.  G stopped him before he could say anything else.  I distinctly remember the perplexed look on her face.

“A “T” Carl?    Why would you say the item in this picture begins with a “T”?, she asked.

To which Carl replied adamantly, “Well, it’s a tater, ain’t it?”

I don’t remember how Mrs. G handled it.    I don’t remember how the class  responded.   But I remember thinking it was funny and to a six year old girl, it was.  I knew what a tater was a slang term for a potato.   I was six.  Name a youngster who doesn’t like Tater Tots or know they are born from potatoes.     But for me, it was also the emphatic way Carl answered Mrs. G’s questiin, as if every other  human was an idiot  for NOT knowing  the object in the photo wasn’t commonly called a tater.   There was an unusual certainty, a surprising confidence in a voice rarely ever heard.    There was  no gold star for Carl that day, but you have to give him credit.     If the bulk of what’s learned in childhood comes from home, he merely proved  that point, whether right or wrong and in his In his world, a potato was a tater.   Case closed.

My childhood memoties are getting blurrier everyday, but while I clearly remember Carl’s tater comment, I honestly don’t remember him after that.  I can’t remember him being in any my other classes.  I have no point of reference, either.  After a million moves,  I have no idea where any of my yearbooks are and I’ve only been to one of two class reunions.   I went to the first one, 30 years ago.    And I don’t keep up with my classmates, so I’ve no one to ask, not that they’d know of his whereabouts either.   You see, this particular  class of 1977 has never been very close.    But if I were to see Carl today, I’d ask him if he remembered me then I’d hug him, if he’d let me, and I’d ask him about his life, hoping he’d be willing to fill me in on things since 1966.

At the appropriate time,  I’d say goodbye and wish him well.   And I’d silently  apologize to him  for being a victim of ignorance to certain disabilities, which  at the time, was also used as another means of exercising prejudice.    Once again, I don’t know what happened to Carl, but it was obvious his problems hadn’t been properly dealt with by his family, but due to certain circumstances, might not have even been aware there was a problem.  Nor was he properly dealt with by the educational system in the place I once called home.    I’m currently far removed from anything school or student-related, but I’m pretty that 51-years ago, having developmental issues, coupled with being from a poor, struggling family  meant it was easier for educators to label, allow those particular kids to slip through the cracks, then simply look the other way.

I think Carl was a prime example of an unspoken caste system that once existed in public education.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Famous Dogs and Cats

I guess it’s because I’m looking down the barrel of age 58, but sometimes I watch movies, even the ones released as recently as past ten-15 years and I wonder about the lives of extras, bit players and the animals used in the films.   Extras are impossible to track down.  Bit players aren’t much easier, especially if the film’s IMBD cast page offers nothing more than the generic “Baseball Fan #1,2 or 3”.   So, my concern focuses on animals.    If a movie featuring an animal was filmed more than five years ago, I hold out little hope that the dog, cat, parrot, guinnea pig, dolphin is still alive. But I’m still interested in their back stories, especially dogs and cats, since I’m the mother of this motley crew.

IMG_1309

 

Bixby is the tan Whippet-Terrier mix,  Greer is in the middle and India is on the far right.   All three are so deeply engrossed in my soul.     I love them more than a rent controlled apartment with free HVAC and a live-in maid.

Anyway, I wonder about animals actors in films and TV shows.     Since I’m an insomniac and The Hallmark Channel is decent enough to offer some of my all-time favorite TV shows,p all night long, we’ll start there….but not with Frasier.    Eddie was the famous Jack Russell terrier who drove the good doctor crazy, but much has been written about him, so let’s lesrn the more obscure canines, shall we?

I Love Lucy is on the Hallmark line-up and hardcore devotees of the show will remember in the sixth and final season, Little Ricky was given a Cairn Terrier  puppy which he named Fred.

IMG_2069

I couldn’t find much on Fred….at least, not that a I could enlarge enough to read lloollllll  l

and/or copy and paste…but the pup’s real name was Danny.

Apparently, there was a long running gag on the show with since the dog was named after Fred Mertz, the Ricardo’s friend and landlord.    Whenever anyone called the dog’s name,  both Freds came running.

I don’t know if Danny/Fred appeared in other shows or his age when the  sixth season was shot and I couldn’t find any info when he died, but I have a feeling when Lucy and  Desi’s divorce was finalized, so was little Danny/Fred’s existence.

How about another  Cairn Terrier even more famous?

IMG_2070

We all know Toto, but did we know this dog was actually named Terry and a female?   And not only that, this animal actor had an impressive resume.   Terry appeared in 16 different movies, but her most famous role was Toto in The Wizard of Oz was her only credited role.   And if you watch the closing credits, she was listed as Toto, her stage name.  The name Terry is nowhere to be found.   In fact, Oz was one of the first movies to include an animal credit.

But wait….there’s more!

Terry was born in 1933 in the throes of the Great Depression.   She was a mere one year old when she got her first movie role, Ready For Love.  Later that same year she starred with Shirley Temple in Bright Eyes.   Then came her big break, The Wizard of Oz in 1939.

Now, this next sentence is going to sound so silly, but according Wikipedia,  Terry did her own stunts….BUT this is an important note, since Terry almost died  during the filming when one of the witch’s guards accidentally stepped on her, severely breaking her foot. She spent two weeks recuperating at Judy Garland’s home (bet THAT was hoot!!)   Garland fell in love with the dog  and wanted to adopt her, but Terry’s owner said no way.   In 1939, this dog was like a Wonkian golden ticket!!    Terry’s salary for Oz was a whopping $125 per week, more than salaries of many human actors in the film, and also more than many working Americans at the time.     I think it was 1995 before I made that much.

Terry actually attended the premiere of The Wizard of Oz at Grauman’s Chinese Theater.     She walked the red carpet and no, I haven’t the foggiest idea who she was wearing.    But due to the popularity of the film, her name was officially changed to Toto in 1942.    She was recocognized on and off screen and had a human fan base.    Once again, it was 1995 before I had any of those things.

Her career flourished as Toto for a few more years.   She was in The Women and Bad Little Angel in 1940.     After her appearance in Tortilla Flat in 1942, she took her final bow…wow.

Toto was eleven when she died in 1955.  I hope she retired and lived a nice cushy life.   She was buried at her owners’s ranch which at the time was a rural part of  Los Angeles.    Sadly, her  grave was destroyed during the construction of the Ventura Freeway in 1958, but thanks to some thoughtful,pet denizens in Hollywood, a permanent memorial for Toto was dedicated at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles.

Holly Golightly.    That’s who Audrey Hepburn played in Breakfast At Tiffany’s.   In the movie, Holly had a cat….named Cat.

IMG_2071

Orangey Cat played Cat.     For most of the film anyway.   Word on the street is that Cat was played by at least two cats: a yellow classic tabby and a yellow mackerel tabby.    I’m don’t read Cat Fancy, but I think Orangey was the classic Tabby.    They were interchanged throughout the movie.     Cats can be trained, but apparently these two were moody and a little fuedy on set, making the need to use multiple cats a necessity.

I have no idea what happened to the other kitty, but Orangey Cat, who,from this point forward  will be known as OC, had a cool career.     She was also known as Minerva the Cat, and Rhubarb the Cat and within her prolific 15 year life and career, OC appeared in such celluloid epics as The Incredible Shrinking Man, Gigot (a real film, not a misspelling or pretentious pronunciation of Gidget), Village of the Giants and on the small screen, she was Minerva on Our Miss Brooks, a gig she had for six years.

And OC was frequently recognized for her achievements.    Dig this—OC  is the only cat in history for winning two PATSY awards, the animal equivalent of the Academy Awards.   PATSY is an acronym for Picture Animal Top Star of the Year.

The very first official recipient of a PATSY was Francis the Talking Mule.     Other winners  include two time winner,  Arnold Ziffel of TV’s Green Acres; Higgins, the dog who played Benji and the tranny pooch from Petticoat Junction who grabbed his own little canine petticoat drying along the the side of city’s water tower in which he and three girls were swimming.     Uh….still gross!!

Cleo the Basset Hound won, as did Lassie, and Tramp the dog from My Three Sons to name a few. Lassie pulled an Oprah and removed future PATSY competition after winning so many awards,   But he/she holds a prominent place in the PATSY Hall of Fame.

Look at the size of the PATSY!!    It’s a big ol thing.   Here’s Mr. Ed, who’s a horse, of course, seen here with his.

IMG_2072

The awards were cancelled in 1986 due to lack of funding.   Designing a much smaller award  might have helped.     That year,  the Genesis Awards were established to honor individuals in the major news and entertainment media for producing outstanding works which raise public awareness of animal issues.  But that was nice and all, butbHollywood still felt the need to honor working animals,  so in 2011 the American Humane Society announced the creation of the Pawscars, described as yet another “animal-centric spin on the Oscars.”       This new awards show has even more money and Hollywood power mongers  behind it.      It offers all different kinds of awards fitbdifferentbsnimslmstsrs….in 201, Rags, the St. Bernard used  in the movie, Kove The Coopers, was awarded best family dog.      This  holiday comedy focuses on four generations of the Cooper clan as they converge home for Christmas.   Rags watches each Cooper family member demonstrate his or her own particular brand of neurosis and dysfunction.        Critics say Rags shined  in his role as the empathetic family pet, even prompting  the film’s  director Jessie Nelson to refer to him as “The Marlon Brando of Dogs.”   But did he send a female  chihuahua dressed in native American  garb to accept the award?

I don’t  mean to go off on a rant here,  Betty White and Bob Barker among others were involved and worked tirelessly for these  animals, insisting on humane on-set treatment and of course, getting their four legged fans spayed and nurtured.

Their work paid off,   The American Humane Association is the organization responsible for the disclaimer at the end of many films and television programs.

IMG_2078

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dilemma at The Check Out Counter

I rarely ask for your feedback and dear readers, you rarely offer it, but this post will be an exception.  I want…nay…I need your thoughts on an  experience I had this morning at the hustling, bustling grocery store where I shop weekly.   So please read this post and comment,  if you would be so kind.

Now, permit me to preface this tome with two important things:   First, at the risk of bragging, I try very hard to be a generous person.    So much so, I’ve been called a sucker in the past.   But that’s because  I’ve lived on the dirty, unpaved shoulder of the road too well travelled, at the intersection of Want and Need.  I know what being destitute feels like.    It’s something I don’t want to repeat or see others endure.      Secondly, no one is exactly catching me at my best these days.  I’m working through a number of things and operating without filters seems to be part of the problem.

Now, to the story at hand.

I was standing line at the check out counter, two weeks worth of groceries were crammed on the conveyor belt before me.   Two women were ahead of me; their transactions went without a hitch.    I approached the cashier and smiled–the usual routine.   But she didn’t say hello, there was no greeting of any kind.    Instead, she asked me in slightly broken English, ‘I’m so hungry, will you buy me a Twix candy bar?”

I automatically said  yes because we’ll, that’s what I do.   I looked at the cash register and the first item on the digital receipt was a Twix bar for $1.75.      A meager buck-75.     But it wasn’t  followed by a thank you.    Not a hint of gratitude, not  even an over eager explanation of why she was hungry or why she needed  me to buy her a candy bar at her place of employment.

Now, I’m well aware this behavior is isn’t uncommon at all in the world receiving end of philanthropy.     Sometimes, embarrassment prevents gratitude.  I understand this and usually, it doesn’t bother me, but today it did.   So,  I asked Mata Hungry who was in between checking out a few Lean Cuisines and some cat food, if she neglected to bring her lunch with her to work.

Silence.

I asked if she didn’t have any money with her.  She was too engrossed in scanning my eight pack of toilet paper to respond.    I wasn’t giving up.  I asked her if she was given  a discount for groceries since she’s an employee.  She said yes and I asked her why then couldn’t she have afforded me the discount since I was willing to pay for her candy bar.

“Too much bother”, she said as she stuffed the Twix in the pocket of her smock.

Really?????

I thought for a second and then asked her, if I came in to the store and was hungry, would she buy me a Twix, to which she responded, “Look Lady, I’ll put it back if it’s so much trouble.”

I’m steaming by this point, so I leaned  in and I told her no, that wouldn’t be necessary BUT… hers was a highly unusual question to be asked by a person employed by a store literally surrounded by food.    She just stared at me and then I said, “If I were you, I’d show a little gratitude and if you can’t do that,  I’d be very careful next time who I asked to buy me a candy bar while on duty at the check out line, because you’re so rude, no doubt your ass would end up eating most of that Twix!”

She said something unintelligible—I’m not sure what it was, but I feel certain sure it wasn’t about having dinner together anytime soon.    We just looked at each other for a split second.    My expression was disbelief and anger, hers was actually righteous by God indignation.   Seriously.   How do some people  feel so entitled and be seemingly unworthy at the same time?

Her attention immediately focused on the person in line behind me.  She had her Twix.   I’d become nothing more to her than customer flotsam.

I know…I know….’twas a Twix candy bar at $1.75.     She wasn’t asking for the moon, but this morning that wasn’t the point.    Having lived in Houston for so long, I know how panhandlers operate.   I’m actually fascinated by people who have the balls or the desperation or the odd sense of entitlement that allows them to approach absolute strangers and ask for money.   It’s something I don’t think I could do unless dire circumstances compelled me, but the need to buy a rock of crack or a quart of Mad Dog to stop the DTs don’t fall under that category.

I’ve tried buying food for “homeless” street corner operators only to have it thrown back in my car.    Contrary to the cardboard signs they held, they only wanted the money.   But that didn’t stop me from making sandwich and water gestures in the future.   And of most of the people who actually took food from me, were able to express a semblance of gratitude.

But that’s not why one does something like this.    There’s only glory in quiet, sincere giving.  It should never include a press release or a camera crew.   And receiving a ‘thank you’ isn’t the impetus to give, but every once in a while, it’s certainly nice to hear.

That wasn’t the case in the grocery store this morning.   This woman had pure audacity.   She wasn’t starving….she was of medium build.    I noticed she wore some jewelry.  Her hair was highlighted.  She was relatively young, wore make-up and above all, she was employed. And her choice of food to quellthis incredible hunger she had was rather telling…a decent deli was 50 feet away and she chose a candy bar, of all things.

So, I ask you this question:  Why?   By the time she got to me in line, was she any hungrier than she was three minutes earlier?     Did the lady ahead of me with the cart filled with four cabbages and ice cream not seem gullible enough, so she wasn’t asked?     Would the person in line behind me be hit up for steaks?

I drove home trying to justify her rudeness as possibly being a cultural thing, but that was impossible. The words ‘thank you’ exist in every language, gratitude is practiced in every culture.     What’s odd is that I shop at this store regularly.  I’ve never seen her before.   While cashier turnover is high, they usually last a couple of weeks.   But she was new.     I contemplated telling the manager, but it wasn’t a battle I felt like fighting.    Besides, karma was on my side, regardless of my crass threat.     .

Then, I wondered  if maybe this was some  kind of divine test….the angel unawares thing.    Nah, no angel would be that rude.   And  if by some slim chance she had been an angel,  I failed the test miserably because  while I bought the candy bar as she had asked, I also told her I’d basically shove it up her ass.

What happened today was so minor as events go, and it won’t keep me up at night, and while I’m not necessarily proud of the lack of poise and restraint  exercised in my response to her,  I’m not rushing to a confessional either.    It was all just so odd.

Your thoughts, please?